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Hakhel Newsletter February 2022

Dear Hakhel Communities, What makes the world holy, and how can we increase the holiness of the world together? In this week’s Torah portion, T’tzaveh, the Israelites learn about how to organize a community with Torah at the center, in a way that truly elevates the mundane to the holy. For instance, the brilliant priestly garments – with precious stones and metals donated by the community – and the rite of priestly consecration are described, as well as the garb of the High Priest, complete with Stones of Remembrance bearing the names of the 12 Tribes for his shoulders. It is clear from these instructions that we live in an interconnected ecosystem, where resources, people, and places can be given sacred meaning and influence one another through channels of mutual obligation and responsibility. In today’s context where we face environmental destruction and human suffering, how can we apply these lessons to repair our world and allow it to flourish? February 20 is the World Day of Social Justice (as referenced in the graphic above). We hope you find inspiration to take this opportunity for your community to engage in social justice projects locally or globally, or even simply to have […]

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Barak Gale

Vaera: What Gives Me Hope? By Dr. Barak Gale

“Shmita offers a “release” from this harsh legacy, whispering to us: Aspire to this time when you no longer harden your heart.”   Vaera recounts the Ten Plagues and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.  I am often asked in my climate presentations – what gives me hope?  Day after day the news speaks of another tipping point or plague threatening our survival – the cracking of ice shelves in Antarctica that keep the great ice sheets from sliding into the ocean, the loss of permafrost holding vast stores of potent methane, and more.  Day after day also sees new threats to what is left of our democracy, and of our humanity.  And we see marginalized communities suffering disproportionately, for example Black children suffering from asthma, often due to proximity to fossil fuel plants, refineries, freeways, at 8 times the rate of White children.   Rabbi Shefa Gold comments on Vaera, that symbols of life, like blood, in excess become the opposite. Yes, sun provides essential energy and warmth and now electricity, but intense heat waves are deadly.  Wind provides essential cooling and transportation for seeds, insects, birds, but in excess becomes monstrous storms and hurricanes. Greenhouse gasses keep the Earth from being […]

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2021 Hazon Gift Guide

As we approach Chanukah, it’s natural for our thoughts to turn towards family, unity, tradition and food. Hazon is a strong proponent of “buying less stuff” which means that when we are faced with an influx of gift guides and holiday lists, we ponder how we can rethink gift giving and promote a more sustainable yet just as satisfying alternative. This year, we have decided to brainstorm and release our top eight holiday gifts – a guide that most closely aligns with our values.  It is often said that the best gift is the gift of an experience. You will find several experiences and learning opportunities in this guide. We encourage you to not only think out of the box this season, but more sustainably as well.  For more resources and information on Chanukah, please visit our Chanukah Holiday Guide. For more information on how you can live more sustainably, including buying less stuff, join the Brit Hazon today!   2021 Hazon Gift Guide   Shmita Sourcebook We have been hard at work on our updated Shmita Sourcebook and we are excited to announce that it’s now available! The updated Shmita Sourcebook is designed to encourage readers to think critically […]

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Hakhel Newsletter October 2021

What’s Inside: Community Spotlight | Sharing Resources | Monthly Quote   Dear Hakhel Communities, Last week (October 9), we read the famous Torah portion that tells the story of Noah (Noach), the righteous man who built an ark that preserved animals and humans from G-d’s epic flood. It may seem with today’s current events that we too are enduring a flood, in our case the health and social crisis around COVID. Looking back on this challenging time, how have we acted as righteous community leaders that prepared our communities to weather this storm at this time when sadly isolation and loneliness skyrocketed? Learning from this crisis and looking forward as community leaders, how can Jewish intentional community-building be an ark that carries us to safety, healing, and connection? In this action-packed Torah portion, we also read about the Tower of Babel, which humans constructed in an act of rebellion to attempt to reach G-d. In retribution for their arrogance, G-d scatters the people across the globe by assigning them different languages to speak. In some ways, our work at Hakhel can be seen as a Tikkun (act of reparation) for this moment in the Jewish people’s history. With our motto […]

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The Torah of the Trees

By Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg Excerpted from The London Times, 8 February 2020 From the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden to the dancing saplings of the Psalmist, the Bible shows a loving respect for trees. Living close to the land, the rabbis of the early centuries similarly appreciated the vital interconnectedness of creation: all the earth was ‘full of God’s glory.’ They understood both the ecological and the spiritual significance of trees: The spirit that lives in the trees used to conversed with humankind, for all nature was created for mutual companionship with people. We know now that trees do communicate, protecting and healing each other, interacting with microbial life through their roots. I believe they speak to us too, though probably not with conscious intention. I love to listen, especially at night, when the city falls quiet. I can’t explain what trees say. Their vocabulary is untranslatable, rich in bark and boughs, catkins and leaves. Their syntax flows in seasons, with the wind, frost and rain. They silence the discord in my head; they console the heart. The love between people and trees begins in childhood, with climbing branches, kicking the autumn leaves and daring the allure […]

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Celebrating Hazon Seal Regional Cohorts

When your community commits to sustainability, everyone is a winner. And when several communities come together, we are redefining local Jewish life.   Targeted efforts in a particular geographical location are a game changer. Physical proximity enables a whole new level of personal connections and cross-community collaborations. Such local Hazon presence is made possible thanks to generous support by local funders. Funders, who identify the potential impact that this type of oh-so-timely-and-relevant Jewish environmental work can make on community life and engagement. We invite you to venture with us and imagine a world in which such strides are being made all over the country: Regional sustainability work rippling out of these strong community hubs. We are looking to collaborate with interested clusters of communities to form Hazon Seal hubs in order to explore possible local funding opportunities. Your on-the-ground knowledge and network can enable opportunities for local support to carry out this much needed work! Please, let us know if you wish to lead this effort in your region and/or if you have relevant information or contacts: seal@hazon.org Check out our Hazon Seal cohorts in Detroit and Chicago Metro areas. Both cohorts convened in the end of January 2020 and […]

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Hazon Seal Spotlight: Jewish Vegetarian Food Festival at Temple Solel

On November 15th, Temple Solel (FL) held its first Jewish Vegetarian Food Festival with the support of the Hazon Seal Ethical Eating Mini Grant (awarded thanks to the generous support of Emanuel J Friedman Philanthropies). The festival was designed to teach the community about the environmental and ethical benefits of eating a plant-based diet and making more ethical egg purchases- and doing this all deliciously. Green team liaisons Stephanie and Scott were happy to share about the event: “We had –  prominent cookbook author and blogger, Ellen Kanner (the Soulful Vegan), do a cooking demonstration and sample some of her very tasty vegan food; an omelet chef make omelets from ethically sourced eggs and organic vegetables, including some sourced from a local farm; a “coffee bar” with Rainforest Alliance certified coffee and a variety of plant-based milks for attendees to sample, and a representative from Slow Food doing a comparative fruit sampling taste test. We also had vendors, including two local farms, several representatives from the Jewish Cupboard, our local Kosher Food Pantry that feeds hundreds of holocaust survivors, and our own Sea Level Rise Solutions Group.   Signage everywhere explained why vegan, why ethically sourced eggs, the levels of […]

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We Are the Weather: A Year of Environmental Teshuva

ראש חודש אלול תשע״ט  ——–  Rosh Chodesh Elul 5779, August 29th, 2019 Dear Rabbis and Clergy, I hope that you have now received a pre-publication copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. I’m writing to explain why we arranged to have this sent to you, and how we hope it might be useful to you. We really are in a climate crisis, and this year, and even this summer, feels like a tipping point of sorts – not only in terms of extreme weather events – this past July was the hottest month on record – ever, but also in relation to people’s consciousness of them. A growing number of people in the Jewish community feel strongly that we ought to be “doing something” about this – but what exactly we do and how we make an impact is sometimes less clear. This is why at Hazon we intend to raise our game in the coming months and years. We’re here to catalyze and support Jewish institutions and Jewish leaders, as Jewish tradition compels us to respond to this crisis. In addition: most people have some sense that food is central to […]

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A Year of Environmental Teshuva

ראש חודש אלול תשע״ט  ——–  Rosh Chodesh Elul 5779, August 29th, 2019 Dear Rabbis and Clergy, Hazon is entering into a year of Environmental Teshuva. The backdrop is that: We really are in a climate crisis, and this year, and even this summer, feels like a tipping point of sorts – not only in terms of extreme weather events – this past July was the hottest month on record – ever, but also in relation to people’s consciousness of them. A growing number of people in the Jewish community feel strongly that we ought to be “doing something” about this – but what exactly we do and how we make an impact is sometimes less clear. This is why at Hazon we intend to raise our game in the coming months and years. We’re here to catalyze and support Jewish institutions and Jewish leaders, as Jewish tradition compels us to respond to this crisis. In addition: most people have some sense that food is central to Jewish life and Jewish tradition. But they’re far less aware that food choices – especially in relation to industrial meat, industrial dairy, and food waste – are one of the top two anthropogenic drivers […]

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A Year of Environmental Teshuva

ראש חודש אלול תשע״ט  ——–  Rosh Chodesh Elul 5779, August 29th, 2019 Dear Rabbinical Council Members, Hazon is entering into a year of Environmental Teshuva. The backdrop is that: We really are in a climate crisis, and this year, and even this summer, feels like a tipping point of sorts – not only in terms of extreme weather events – this past July was the hottest month on record – ever, but also in relation to people’s consciousness of them. A growing number of people in the Jewish community feel strongly that we ought to be “doing something” about this – but what exactly we do and how we make an impact is sometimes less clear. This is why at Hazon we intend to raise our game in the coming months and years. We’re here to catalyze and support Jewish institutions and Jewish leaders, as Jewish tradition compels us to respond to this crisis. In addition: most people have some sense that food is central to Jewish life and Jewish tradition. But they’re far less aware that food choices – especially in relation to industrial meat, industrial dairy, and food waste – are one of the top two anthropogenic drivers […]

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Sustainable Vacation Tips

by Ariel Marantz and Rebecca Silver Summer is vacation time! Here are some tips to think about when planning your next vacation. Traveling: Are there ways that you can travel without flying? Try to use public transportation, including buses or trains, as much as possible. If you must fly, travel non-stop, choose coach seating, and pack lightly. Click here to find out why, and explore green airports and airlines. Bring your own plane snacks in reusable containers to avoid the plastic-wrapped meals!  Pack reusable water bottles, reusable coffee cups, containers, and silverware with you before you go.  Secure any travel liquids in silicone reusable bags instead of plastic – you can find them here or by going on stasher’s website. Say Tefilat Haderech (traveler’s prayer), have fun, and appreciate the nature around you! Hotels: If staying in a hotel, bring your own shampoo, conditioner, and soap bars to avoid using the provided plastic containers Be sure to not throw your towels on the floor unless they truly need washing Request that your bed sheets not be washed each night (washing unnatural materials causes microplastic sheds!) Be mindful of turning off lights when leaving the room, and try to use the […]

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Issues with Emails from hazon.org

For reasons outside of our control, some of our emails are now being blocked by spam filters. This includes not just emails from Hazon overall, but also from individual staffers. We cannot, on our side,  remove our emails from your spam. There are however a few easy steps that you can do to help. If you’ve been in touch with a specific person at Hazon who you haven’t heard replies from in a while: We apologize – it wasn’t our fault! Please check your spam filter – an email from them may be there; Please call that person to check in on the status of your conversation. How to check your spam filter – and remove us from it…. If you use a public email service such as Gmail or Yahoo: Check your spam or junk folder for any messages from Hazon that may have mistakenly ended up there. If you find anything, mark it as not spam (see below for details). Once you’ve done this a number of times, your email provider will learn to resume delivering Hazon emails to your regular inbox. If you use an organizational or company email service: Ideally, please ask your IT staff to […]

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New Paradigm Spiritual Communities Initiative (NPSCI)

The New Paradigm Spiritual Communities Initiative (NPSCI) is designed to support the development of spiritual communities that use the wisdom and practice of Judaism (chochma), to help people live lives of sacred purpose (kedusha) and inspire people to contribute to a more just and peaceful world (tzedek). The context for this work are covenantal communities (kehillot) where a group of people intentionally enter into a mutual obligatory relationship in which they commit to a common mission and give of their time and psychic energy to support the viability of the group and the material and spiritual needs of the members of the group. Hazon is a founding partner of NPSCI, which recently launched a new website, and was featured today in a cover story in the New York Jewish Week: Make Way For ‘Earthodoxy’ – A new effort to support spiritual communities is fueled by those on the communal fringes. The new website includes short essays on how participants are building spiritual community. And starting April 11th, a weekly blog will feature longer essays, which speak to the more conceptual issues informing new paradigm spiritual communities, and aims to generate creative thinking around the ideas that can inform the creation and building of vibrant spiritual communities.

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